This Week in Amateur Radio
This Week in Amateur Radio: North America's Amateur Radio News Magazine. Articles on amateur radio and news stories in the media featured here.
Updated: 35 min ago
A juried research paper in Nature, “Oscillations of the baseline of solar magnetic field and solar irradiance on a millennial timescale,” suggests that a “grand solar minimum” — similar to the legendary “Maunder Minimum” — is approaching, starting as early as next year and lasting for three solar cycles. That would be bad news for HF enthusiasts, who are already struggling with marginal conditions.
A story that has been on the burner for a few weeks concerns a proposal that will be advanced to the ITU World Radiocommunication Conference 2023. It originates with French spectrum regulators and is reported to be at the behest of the Paris-based multinational defence contractor Thales. The sting in its tail is the proposed relegation of amateur radio to secondary status of the widely used two-meter band (144 MHz) to permit its usage by aircraft. The machinations of global spectrum regulation politics do not often provide stories for Hackaday readers, but this one should be of concern beyond the narrow bounds of amateur radio.
A contact between a radio amateur in Germany and China took place on July 1 via the moon-orbiting LO-94 satellite, DSLWP-B, launched in May 2018. The two-way exchange between Reinhard Kuehn, DK5LA, in Soerup, Germany, and Harbin Institute of Technology club station BY2HIT (operated by Wei Mingchuan, BG2BHC), in Harbin, China, occurred between 0551 and 0728 UTC, according to reports. The GMSK-to-JT4G repeater onboard DSLWP-B was used to make the contact, the first ever made via a lunar-orbiting repeater.
Nine nations were represented as Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) held its 2019 “face-to-face” meeting of international delegates at the Canadian Space Agency in Montreal, June 26 – 28. ARISS-Canada was the host for the gathering. A high point of the conference came when Kenwood software manager Shin Aota, JL1IBD, presented two Kenwood TM-D710GA transceivers to ARISS-Russia delegate Sergey Samburov, RV3DR. One of the TM-D710GA radios will replace aging Amateur Radio equipment currently in use on the International Space Station, while the other will remain on Earth as a spare for training cosmonauts. For more than a year, these radios have undergone detailed NASA qualification testing followed by final software configuration and verification.
Representatives of International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) member-societies in Europe are advising restraint in the wake of a proposal to consider the allocation of 146 – 148 MHz to the Aeronautical Mobile Service (AMS) at World Radiocommunication Conference 2023 (WRC-23). France recently raised the prospect during a European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT) meeting in Prague, held in advance of WRC-19. A WRC-19 agenda item would call for studying a range of frequencies for AMS applications, including 144 – 146 MHz, and a decision could be made at WRC-23. The French draft resolution seeks studies of possible new AMS primary allocations in several bands in the range from 144 MHz to 22.2 GHz on a primary basis, “while ensuring the protection of existing services in those bands and, as appropriate, adjacent bands, and not constraining future development of these services.” The Radio Society of Great Britain (RSGB) released a statement this week, in part pointing that as proposed, the French resolution “is not an eviction or re-allocation of amateurs, but nonetheless is unwelcome and presents significant challenges. Unlike some other bands where amateurs do share, aeronautical applications are amongst the most difficult due to the altitudes and long free-space distances involved.”
RSGB has been a key part of a joint International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) effort and are working hard on both national and international levels to ensure a positive outcome for World Radio Conference-19 (WRC-19) items (50 MHz, Wireless Power, microwave bands etc) and WRC-23 Agenda proposals (144-146 MHz and 23cms). With regard to 144-146 MHz, for the avoidance of doubt we have been deeply engaged in the joint IARU effort regarding future agenda items (which has also included 23cm/Galileo). If adopted and agreed, a French proposal would add aeronautical mobile across the global Primary 144-146 MHz amateur and amateur satellite allocation. As proposed, it is not an eviction or re-allocation of amateurs, but nonetheless is unwelcome and presents significant challenges. Unlike some other bands where amateurs do share, aeronautical applications are amongst the most difficult due to the altitudes and long free-space distances involved.
IARU was represented at a recent meeting in Switzerland of the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT) Project Team D. This was the last of the CEPT project team meetings preparing European Common Proposals (ECP) for a number of agenda items for World Radiocommunication Conference 2019 (WRC-19) this fall in Egypt. WRC-19 agenda item 1.1, which addresses the possibility of a “harmonized” Region 1 50 MHz allocation, was the key issue to be resolved. The Project Team agreed on the text of an ECP for WRC-19, which, if adopted by the delegates, would see an entry in the International Table of Allocations for Region 1 and allocate 50 – 52 MHz to Amateur Radio on a secondary basis. In addition, the team agreed upon the addition of a footnote to the International Table to permit individual CEPT countries to introduce a national primary allocation in the 50.0 – 50.5 MHz subband.
While thousands were enjoying ARRL Field Day over the June 21 – 23 weekend, some 14,300 visitors from more than 50 countries arrived on the shores of Lake Constance in Friedrichshafen, Germany, for HAM RADIO 2019. Show officials said this 44th event attracted about 400 more visitors this year. The previously reported 2018 attendance of 15,460 included radio amateurs, invited Scouts, and attendees at the concurrent and co-located Maker Faire, which did not take place at this year’s show.
When you think of an old radio it’s possible you imagine a wooden-cased tube radio receiver as clustered around by a 1940s family anxious for news from the front, or maybe even a hefty 19-inch rack casing for a “boat anchor” ham radio transmitter. But neither of those are really old radios, for that we must go back another few decades to the first radios. Radio as demonstrated by Giulielmo Marconi didn’t use tubes and it certainly didn’t use transistors, instead it used an induction coil and a spark gap. It’s a subject examined in depth by [The Plasma Channel] and [Blueprint], as they come together to build and test a pair of spark gap transmitters.
The FCC has put on public notice for comment a Petition for Rulemaking (RM-11843) that seeks the creation of a new 8-meter Amateur Radio allocation on a secondary basis. The Petition suggests the new band could be centered on an industrial-scientific-medical (ISM) segment somewhere between 40.51 and 40.70 MHz. The spectrum between 40 and 41 MHz is currently allocated to the Federal Government and, as such, within the purview of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). ARRL member Michelle Bradley, KU3N, of Maryland, filed the petition in May on behalf of REC Networks, which she founded and described in the Petition as “a leading advocate for a citizen’s access to spectrum,” including Amateur Radio spectrum.
The IARU was represented this week at the meeting of CEPT Project Team A—one of the groups leading WRC-19 preparations—which finished in Prague on Friday, 21 June 2019. Of particular interest were discussions on two proposed agenda items for WRC-23, concerning the sharing of the 1240-1300MHz band with the Galileo satellite navigation system and the proposal from France to study a range of frequencies, including the 144MHz amateur band, for future primary aeronautical applications. The meeting considered views that the Galileo issue did not currently warrant a WRC23 agenda item and should be first investigated within CEPT. However, regarding new aeronautical frequencies including 144MHz, the proposal was unfortunately not strongly opposed by other administrations; this has been carried forward to the higher level CEPT-CPG meeting in August.
If your club wants to see how its Field Day efforts are faring in comparison with others in your category, check out the Contest Online ScoreBoard. It will be supporting ARRL Field Day. In addition, Bruce Horn, WA7BNM, has developed Score Distributor, which will relay your score to all scoreboards that support the event. Scoreboards can be very attractive to younger operators, in addition to enhancing the fun factor, and they can really motivate teams to keep on the air and active.
An historic contact was made on Sunday, 16 June 2019, when the Atlantic was spanned for the first time on 144MHz. D41CV on Cape Verde Islands off the coast of Africa managed to work FG8OJ in Guadeloupe on 144.174MHz using FT8.
The annual SAQ VLF transmission on Alexanderson Day on 17.2kHz from the Alexanderson Alternator will take place Sunday, 30 June 2019. Two transmissions are scheduled.Tuning will start at 0830UTC for the message at 0900UTC, then 1130UTC for the transmission at 1200UTC. Both transmission events will be broadcasted live on YouTube.
The Planetary Society’s citizen-funded LightSail 2 solar-propelled spacecraft is set to launch on June 22 on board a SpaceX Falcon Heavy. It will attempt the first controlled solar sail flight in Earth orbit. LightSail 1 successfully completed its test flight mission in 2015. LightSail is aimed at testing “solar sailing” technology for CubeSats, which comprise many Amateur Radio satellites. According to the Planetary Society, solar sailing uses reflective sails to harness the momentum of sunlight for propulsion. “One disadvantage to CubeSats is that they typically lack propulsion, which limits their range of applications,” The Planetary Society says. “LightSail will demonstrate the viability of using solar sailing for CubeSats.”
At the request of authorities in India’s Gujarat Province, Rajesh Vagadia, VU2EXP, and his niece Shyama Vagadia, VU3WHG, deployed on June 12 to Porbandar to offer emergency communication support in the event the Category 3 Cyclone Vayu struck Gujarat. On short notice, they installed HF and VHF stations, equipped with digital communication. Rajesh Vagadia said a lot of hams checked in and remained on frequency to assist if needed.
A New Jersey radio amateur, David S. Larsen Sr., WS2L, of Highland Park, will surrender his Amateur Extra-class license and pay a $7,500 civil penalty as part of a Consent Decree with the FCC to settle an enforcement action. An FCC Enforcement Bureau Order released June 18 said Larsen violated the Communications Act of 1934 and Part 90 rules by operating on frequencies licensed to the Borough of Highland Park for public safety communication.
The International Amateur Radio Union Region 1 Monitoring System (IARUMS) reports a “new kind” of over-the-horizon (OTH) radar on 20 meters. The intruding signal, which appears to be emanating from the Far East, was monitored during May on 14.140 – 14.150 MHz. Another Chinese wideband OTH radar has been showing up on 15 meters, with a signal 160 kHz wide. An Iranian radar has appeared on 10 meters, centered on 28.860 MHz, and is audible in Europe during sporadic-E conditions. The signal is about 46 kHz wide. The Russian OTH radar “Konteyner” OTH radar centered on 14.127 MHz continues to be observed, with a 12 kHz wide signal.
hi-impact will be launching two high altitude balloon flights this month, on the 20th and 27th of June. Working alongside Altrincham Prep School and South Wirral High School, they plan to launch from Welshpool at 11am, subject to any operational changes, which will appear on their Facebook and Twitter feeds, @hiimpactconsult. Both flights are HABDuino equipped, and assistance from amateurs and SWLs in receiving the data and feeding it into HABHUB via DL-FLDigi is appreciated.
Two proposals under discussion in Europe as possible World Radiocommunication Conference 2023 (WRC-23) agenda items “could impact important Amateur Radio frequencies,” IARU Region 1 President Don Beattie, G3BJ, reported this week on the IARU Region 1 website. Included is a proposal from France to consider the 144 – 146 MHz band as a primary allocation to the Aeronautical Mobile service, as part of a broader consideration of spectrum allocated to that service. IARU has cautioned the amateur community against overreacting to the news. France will submit a paper containing a proposal for an agenda item for “new non-safety Aeronautical Mobile applications” at the June 17 – 21 Conference Preparatory Group meeting of the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT) in Prague. Beattie pointed out in his account that 144 – 146 MHz is a primary global Amateur and Amateur Satellite allocation.